No one gets suspicious when it comes to celebrations but some oddities have been going on around the world under our pure ignorance. As you know, various types of traditional practices are carried out day in day out worldwide. People are found to be pleasing either their gods or sometimes even themselves while performing them as a mere act of legacy. They all have different reasons to celebrate deaths and births of their ancestors and newborns respectively. While some of these may not be soothing to our hearts and minds, these traditions and cultures actually are connected to a community’s historical background in the long run which has a completely different story to tell. So, here are some of the world’s weirdest traditions that are still carried out irrespective of the outlandish beliefs that are conglomerated within.
10. Hair of the dead – China
What: This old tradition in China has been one of the weirdest traditions practiced by the Miao community. Although there are around only 5000 people left in this community, still this practice is going on strong as ever. The uncanny tradition is all about saving the hair of the dead ancestors and weaving a wig out of it. Even the females who comb their hair don’t throw away the shredded hair strands, they save it instead to weave a wig with much more collected hair over generations. The wigs are worn on all special occasions such as weddings, big feasts etc. Not only this, but the men of Maio also used to follow this practice but they gave it up since it was unmanageable when it came to men folks! Haha, that’s totally contradictory because men have much shorter hair than women and their reason is that they can’t manage it. Anyway, this tradition of the wig was preceded by wearing cow horns because a cow was seen as a holy symbol.
Why: The people who follow it, when surveyed, told that this is done to show respect to the dead ancestors. Another logical reason to sustain the tradition comes as a way to get spectacular hair wigs from these saved bundles of hair. Also, the hair is taken good care of and maintained just like the real hair to keep them shiny and healthy. Each wig is passed down as a legacy from mother to daughter and so on.
9. Deforming the skull – Mayan
What: The Mexico based Maya tribe has some peculiar tradition being followed by their tribe members. The Mayans place the head of hardly a month old infant between two planks continuously. This bizarre custom goes on for six months and the children endure it continuously.
Why: It is believed that the most obvious reasons to claim skull deformation as a widely accepted practice was because people with elongated skulls tended to be more intelligent, acquiring higher status and believed to be close to the spiritual world. It was practiced on newborn infants commonly as their skulls were more prone to molding much easier.
8. Dancing with the dead – Madagascar
What: The Malagasy people of Madagascar perform this unusual tradition called Famadihana wherein they bring the dead bodies from their homes from the crypts and wrap them in a fresh cloth. They dance around while carrying them on their shoulders in a group with live music, oblations and great joy.
Why: This ritual is celebrated as a festival once every seven years to ensure the dead ancestors remain connected to their kinship.
7. Spit on – Africa
What: You might feel apprehensive about it but Masaai, an African tribe, has its own kind of spitting culture. The people of this tribe greet each other while spitting on each other’s faces. No, trust me, unlike us, they don’t get offended by this eccentricity.
Why: The Masaai tribe has been practicing this tradition for quite a long time to ensure a healthy relationship with each other. In fact, when a baby is born in Africa, all the relatives and friends celebrate the occasion by washing the baby completely with their saliva. This might seem unrefined to many of us but it is their way of showing respect.
What: The Igorot tribe in the Philippines is found to bury their dead in coffins. But the strange fact is that these coffins are hanged from a cliff. The Igorots wrap the dead bodies in a fetal position and then bury them because they believe that the deceased should leave in the same position as they arrived in the world.
Why: The dead are buried in a hanging coffin so that they remain close to their ancestral spirit. But, there have been many other reasons figured out as the practice antiquated because it was said that the elders didn’t wish to get buried in the ground since they feared that their corpses will easily rot away.
5. Burial Tradition – Yanomami
What: This peculiar tradition of eating the ashes of the dead is practiced by Yanomami tribe residing in the Amazon rainforest. Spooky enough? Well, it surely is!
Why: The Yanomami people believe that death does not occur naturally but instead it’s an evil spirit sent by the enemy tribe’s shaman that comes for revenge to strike a person in their community. So, the loved ones in the community of the deceased have to eat their ashes mixed in the soup after 30-45 days of the cremation ceremony.
4. Cutting the fingers – Indonesia
What: The tradition of amputation of fingers on the death of a loved one was a common practice followed by the Dani tribe of Indonesia. This was subjected to girls or women mostly maybe as a patriarchal practice.
Why: This was done to express grief with their faces smeared with ashes and clay to express sorrow. The Dani people believed that the fingers were amputated to pacify or appease the powerful souls of the deceased.
3. Bride Abduction – Kyrgyzstan
What: It is an unusual tradition that is still continued in areas like Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Chechnya. The ritual is about a man kidnapping the woman he wishes to marry, with the help of his friends. This doesn’t only mean abduction which is a non-consensual norm but also subsumes eloping with the one you love and asking for your parent’s consent later which comes under the category of consensual.
Why: The reason dates back to the patriarchal background of the communities with respect to copulation and pregnancy. This was generally practiced by the men belonging to lower strata who would then ask for money from the woman’s family in exchange for the bride’s freedom. No no no, not to confuse it with the dowry, please! Ransom, it is.
2. Toss the baby – India
What: This conventional tradition persisting in Karnataka involves throwing the baby (generally below the age of 2) from top of a 30 ft. temple balcony. The child is tossed from the balcony and collected by the locals in a blanket. Oops, I hope that didn’t hurt! Well, when the child is caught safely, the celebration takes place joyously.
Why: The reason behind this speaks of the tossed child’s good luck, health and prosperity. The newlyweds and the other couples are also found to participate in this tradition in the hope of getting blessed with a child soon.
1. La Tomatina – Spain
What: This is rather a respite from all the traditions mentioned above as it involves fun and frolic with the squashed tomatoes. Yes, the rule is to hit each other with squashed tomatoes so as to avoid any injury. So much fun, right? The whole of Spain is covered with tomatoes after the one hour fight is over.
Why: There have not been any superstitious beliefs about carrying out this tradition. It is solely for entertainment and fun.
Some are spooky, some are disturbing and some are interesting. They are followed worldwide for various reasons which might seem a bewildering variety of superstitious beliefs to you but serve a meaningful ancestral purpose in all of these people’s life.
Now, what we all need to do is to respect the traditional practices of each and every community whatsoever in order to ensure peace and harmony all over the world!